Death by Corruption

As the JBC bulldozer moved the earth it revealed the mangled body of a construction worker. A concerned crowd gathered around trying to assess what they could do. Some lamented the young man’s death while others stood on the sidelines saying they knew this day would come.

In March 2013, Ramesh was killed in an accident during the construction of the bridge in Limbdi Village, Surendranagar District Gujarat. Community Correspondent, Bipin Solanki, a resident of Limbdi went to the scene and reports from there.

The plan to build a bridge in had been launched with great flourish. There were around 100 labourers who came in to work on the bridge. Ramesh was one of them and had come in from Siyali.

The incident took place as the workers on site started to move the supporting beams of the bridge that had been put in place as the cement dried. The construction however had been a shoddy job, not for want of the workers’ skills but because of the quality of raw materials they were working with.

“The budget for the small bridge was 30 lakhs but of that money only some went towards the actual construction of the bridge. Most of it was siphoned off by the contractor and by the other engineers involved in the project. When I was filming I could see that there was more sand than cement that was coming out of the rubble,” says Bipin.

“We went and spoke to the Deputy Executive Engineer a few days before the incident. We clearly stated that there was more sand being used than cement and that the quality of the bridge was not up to the mark. His response was to tell us repeatedly to take the matter to higher authorities if we had such concerns,” says Mansukh Solanki, a worker on the site.

“Will the administration take any responsibility for this death?” he asks.

The administration and contractor must however be given due credit for their efficiency in brushing matters away. They were as swift in dismissing the concerns of the workers as they were in quashing the matter of Ramesh’s death.

“They visited the hospital where Ramesh’s body and grieving family was. The family was paid a compensation of 2.5 lakhs. No First Information Report was written. Their main aim was to get the matter hushed up as fast as they could and they made sure no further questions were asked of them,“ says Bipin.

The issue made it to one local newspaper and no other media bothered to cover it. Google, ever ready with information, throws up no search results of this incident.

“It feels like human life has no value here. When the incident took place, neither the engineer nor the contractor felt it was important for them to come and have a look,” says a now irate Bipin.

So what became of the bridge then?

“They are re-constructed it. When I interviewed the Deputy Executive Engineer, he assured me that the contractor responsible would have to bear the costs of the reconstruction and that the tender could not be given to anyone else. But they are all friends and try to get best deals for each other,” says Bipin.

“And what have they done? The same thing. The same people got more money, poor materials have been used. It’s a matter of time before this bridge falls down as well,” he says.

The whole incident appears to be just one episode in corruption scandals that shake the very core of India. You can make a difference by holding those in authority accountable.

Call to Action: Please call the Deputy Engineer, Surendranagar District, VN Patel on 9427078381 and ensure that the second round of construction delivers a safe bridge and that work takes place without corruption.

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